A more compelling framework for understanding contemporary political trends on both sides of the Atlantic emerges from considering the character of modern democracy. In his 2006 book A World beyond Politics?, Pierre Manent distinguishes “several broad categories of separation” that characterize modern democracy: “separation of professions, or, division of labor; separation of powers; separation of church and state; separation of civil society and the state; separation between represented and representative; separation of facts and values, or science and life.”1 These separations have been the engine on which liberal democracy runs, economically, politically, and socially. By its own admission, liberalism sought to separate matters that had historically been combined. The division of labor would allow for the maximization of profit. The separation of powers would allow modern states to retain power while not succumbing to tyranny. The separation of church and state would free churches to preach the Gospel while allowing the state to focus on civil goals. Civil society would flourish without the state’s interference. Representative government would secure the benefits of democracy without the need for direct democracy. And finally, a science free to pursue knowledge as it understands it would be wholly beneficial to mankind.
Yet what currently characterizes Western democracies is not this movement of separations but rather reactions against the system of separations. These reactions take various forms, and no reaction is comprehensively against the whole. Indeed, one could hardly imagine what a complete reaction against the system of separations would be: the division of labor, after all, is hardly on the verge of disappearance. But a protest against excessive separation has emerged across Western democracies. Many economic enterprises have become unmoored from their countries of origin, and have become global behemoths beholden to no one. The separation of professions has led beyond the optimization provided by the division of labor to phenomena like those noted in small print on the back of the iPhone: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” The vulnerability of pharmaceutical supply chains under globalization has now been made painfully clear in the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. In the United States, the separation of powers often seems to have led to administrative inefficiencies and political deadlock. The separation of church and state has steadily pushed churches out of public life, to a degree that would have surprised Americans of the nineteenth through even the mid-twentieth century. Meanwhile, the marvels produced by science and engineering in the twentieth century seem destined to be overshadowed by the monstrosities of a new biopolitical tyranny coming, like eugenics the last time, in the guise of humanitarianism. Finally, the separation of represented and representative seems to have grown, as representatives become captured by financial interests and corporate pressure.2
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